Petrol cars are becoming more popular, with buyacar.co.uk reporting a 14 per cent increase in sales so far this year – and that was in March. In contrast, diesel car sales are down by a quarter compared with last year. This is largely down to concern over pollution from diesel engines – although newer diesels have been and continue to be cleaned up a lot – and efforts to reduce it which have hit drivers of older diesels in the wallet.
For example, diesel cars that don't comply with Euro 6 pollution standards, which became mandatory for new cars in 2015, now have to pay £12.50 a day (in addition to the congestion charge) to drive into London's clean air zone, whereas petrol drivers only risk being charged if their car dates from before 2006. At least a dozen other areas are considering similar schemes – indeed, Public Health England has recommended that every council considers setting one up.
Tax on diesel cars has also increased: the Government put a surcharge of between £15 and £520 on the first year of road tax for new diesel cars last year. Company car tax went up too, in some cases by hundreds of pounds. Diesel drivers are also paying more for parking: an extra £120 a year for a permit in Islington, and 50 per cent extra for on-street parking for pre-2015 diesels in Westminster.
Diesel is still king when it comes to fuel economy and pulling power – although economy has improved and continues to improve in petrol engines, which also tend to be smoother and more refined. With average-sized family cars, the difference in economy between petrol and diesel can be small, but it's significant in heavier cars. And because it's more efficient, a diesel engine will produce less carbon dioxide than a petrol engine with the same power output.
The fact that diesel cars are getting a fair bit of punishment right now doesn't mean a modern, cleaner diesel won't still work out the best value option for you. What it does mean is that you should keep an open mind, and be aware that, if you've always preferred diesel cars, the extra charges may mean a used petrol car is now a more economical option